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Fortress dating back to the 12th-century BC found Israel matches a structure described in the Bible

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Massive fortress dating back to the 12th-century BC is unearthed in Israel that matches a biblical structure described in the Book of Judges

  •  Israeli archaeologists uncovered a Canaanite citadel  from the 12th century B.C.
  • The Book of Judges describes the era as plagued by warfare among the Canaanites, Israelites and Philistines
  • The design and pottery hint at the Canaanites’ ties to their Egyptian overlords
  • When the Egyptians left Canaan, many of strongholds and cities collapsed

Archaeologists uncovered a 3,200-year-old fortress in southern Israel that may give some clues to a lost people from the Bible.

Measuring 60 feet by 60 feet, the two-story citadel had watchtowers in each corner and a courtyard paved with stone slabs and columns in the center.  

Researchers date the structure to the 12th-century BC, a time described in Book of Judges that was plagued by warfare. 

The team believes the structure was built by the Canaanites, perhaps with help from their Egyptian overlords, to fend off invading Philistines. 

Archaeologists uncovered this Canaanite fortress in a forest near Kiryat Gat, Israel. Dating to the 12th-century B.C. , the two-story citadel had watchtowers in each corner and a courtyard paved with stone slabs and columns in the center.

Archaeologists uncovered this Canaanite fortress in a forest near Kiryat Gat, Israel. Dating to the 12th-century B.C. , the two-story citadel had watchtowers in each corner and a courtyard paved with stone slabs and columns in the center.

Hundreds of pottery vessels, including ones probably used for religious rites, were found inside rooms arranged on both sides of the courtyard. 

Experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered the remains of the Canaanite fortification in the Guvrin Forest near Kiryat Gat, which sits about 35 miles from Tel Aviv. 

Canaan was ruled by Egypt at that time and design elements and pottery fragments found at the site suggest Egyptian influence. 

A massive threshold was found intact at the entrance, carved from a single stone and weighing some three tons. 

Hundreds of pieces of pottery, some likely used for religious rituals, were found in rooms abutting the main courtyard.  Archaeologists say some imitate styles of bowls made by the Canaanite's Egyptian overlords

Hundreds of pieces of pottery, some likely used for religious rituals, were found in rooms abutting the main courtyard.  Archaeologists say some imitate styles of bowls made by the Canaanite’s Egyptian overlords

Researchers date the structure to the 12th-century BC, a time described in the Old Testament as plagued by warfare.  

‘The fortress we found provides a glimpse into the geopolitical reality described in the Book of Judges, in which the Canaanites, Israelites and Philistines are fighting each other,’ said IAA archaeologists Saar Ganor and Itamar Weissbein. 

‘In this period, the land of Canaan was ruled by the Egyptians and its inhabitants were under their custody.’

The citadel follows the design of Egyptian ‘governor’s houses’ and some of the pottery found at the site imitates the style of Egyptian bowls.

But the Egyptians left Canaan in the middle of the 12th century BC.

Without their protection, the Canaanites descended into territorial battles with the Israelites and Philistines and many of their strongholds and cities collapsed.

‘The Israelites settled in unfortified communities on the central mountain ridge, while the Philistines gained great power in the southern coastal plain where they established large cities in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gat,’ the researchers said, according to The Times of Israel.

The fortification was built during a time of bloody territorial wars, when the Canaanites were fending off attacks by the Israelites and the Philistines. 'The fortress we found provides a glimpse into the geopolitical reality described in the Book of Judges, in which the Canaanites, Israelites and Philistines are fighting each other,' the researchers said.

The fortification was built during a time of bloody territorial wars, when the Canaanites were fending off attacks by the Israelites and the Philistines. ‘The fortress we found provides a glimpse into the geopolitical reality described in the Book of Judges, in which the Canaanites, Israelites and Philistines are fighting each other,’ the researchers said.

The citadel's strategic location would have given it a good view of the main road that passed along Nahal Guvrin, a ravine connecting the coastal plain to the Judaean plain. Without support from the Egyptians, who left Canaan in the mid-12th century B.C., numerous strongholds and cities collapsed

The citadel’s strategic location would have given it a good view of the main road that passed along Nahal Guvrin, a ravine connecting the coastal plain to the Judaean plain. Without support from the Egyptians, who left Canaan in the mid-12th century B.C., numerous strongholds and cities collapsed

The fortress’ strategic location would have given it a good view of the main road that passed along Nahal Guvrin, a ravine connecting the coastal plain to the Judaean plain.

The ruins were excavated with student volunteers from the Eretz Israel Dept. at the multidisciplinary school in Beer Sheva and from the Nachshon pre-military preparatory school.

The site is being opened for the first time for free public tours.

WHO WERE THE CANAANITES? 

The Canaanites were a Semitic people who lived in the Ancient Near East from the middle to late Bronze Age.

Most is what is known about the Canaanites comes from other groups they encountered, including the Egyptians and the Israelites. 

Ancient Canaan likely included parts of modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. 

But rather than a single kingdom, some scholars believe the Canaanites were a confederacy of ethnic groups with varying customs and religious practices.

They’re mentioned often in the Old Testament, including in God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan.

According to the Bible, the Canaanites were exterminated by the Israelites. 

But more recent scholarship suggests they was absorbed by nearby peoples. 

A report published in 2017 indicated that present-day Lebanese people derive over 90 percent of their ancestry from the Canaanites.

Two tiny Canaanite figures found in a 3,200-year-old temple in Israel. These figures were of either the god Baal or Resheph and are said to be'smiting'

Two tiny Canaanite figures found in a 3,200-year-old temple in Israel. These figures were of either the god Baal or Resheph and are said to be ‘smiting’ 

In May, archaeologists in Israel announced a 3,200-year-old temple had been discovered in what was once part of the powerful Canaanite city of Lachish.

Inside, they found statues of different gods, including two bronze figurines, either of Baal or Resheph, who are said to be ‘smiting.’

Lachish was mentioned in the Old Testament book of Joshua, as being delivered by God into the hands of Israel, where ‘[they] put it and all the people in it to the sword.’

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